Woman in bed holding coffee cup

Photo courtesy of @nina_p_v/Twenty20

Creating an evening routine is about more than just getting a good night’s sleep. As the bookend to your day, it’s a great time to plug in consistent good habits that contribute to your overall wellbeing. What’s more, letting go of the debris of the day with intention can be a powerful grounding tool that sets you up to move forward each morning with clarity and confidence. 

Eat early

This has been a game-changer for me. Finishing your eating at least two hours before bedtime gives your body time to switch into rest and digest mode — the zone you want to stay in before bedtime. To facilitate this (when my social schedule allows), I’ll often hold off on that late afternoon snack and reach for dinner at 5 or 6pm. Then, I’ll sip on lots of herbal tea and, if I’m truly starving later on, I’ll reach for something light like warm golden milk or piece of fruit. I find this keeps me calm, helps me sleep better, boosts my digestion, and gives me a healthy appetite for breakfast the next morning. 

Set the mood

Making a ritual out of transitioning from day to night is a handy physiological tool to help you unwind and prepare for sleep. We’ve all likely heard that staying away from blue light-emitting screens, switching off devices (airplane mode from 10pm is your friend), and keeping technology out of the bedroom promotes better rest, but there are other things that can further enhance this chilled-out trajectory. Try switching off all electrical light sources and using candlelight instead (a salt lamp is another great source of calming, diffused light). Burn Palo Santo or your favorite incense. Throw on some relaxing music or use an old-school white noise machine. If you can, ditch the television and enjoy quiet conversation, artwork, journal, or read a book instead. 

Stretch and Breathe 

Ironing out the day’s kinks is a great way to cap it off. Do some gentle yoga, Pilates, or simple stretches with a foam roller or massage balls. Try rolling your feet out with your device of choice (there’s a world of them for sale online), or take a seated forward bend—one of the most restorative stretches you can do. The evening is also an ideal time to layer in some relaxing breathing exercises that help you let go of stress. Try a diaphragmatic breath: With one hand resting on your lower abdomen and the other on your chest, take five deep breaths, inhaling for a count of three, then exhaling for a count of three. Clear your mind by focusing on the way your hand rises and falls with each inhale and exhale. 

Choose your wind-down toolkit

Magnesium (which is said to help to relax muscles and calm the nervous system), a probiotic for gut health, lavender essential oil in a diffuser, and a sleepy tea blend. These are a few of my favorite things when it comes to before-bed rituals. There are certain supplements (like magnesium) that are best taken in the evening. Consider working with a nutritionist to find what’s right for you. 

Write it down 

The evening is a great time to get everything out of your head and onto paper. There are many ways to approach this. You might find that writing a to-do list for the next day helps to curb anxiety and set clear intentions. Or you might find it peaceful to reflect on the day and write down the moments, things, and people you are grateful for. You could even simply scribble down whatever stream of consciousness comes to mind to work out any worries or fears. Setting yourself up for a clean slate tomorrow is a beautiful nighttime practice.

Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.